Disney Tops Earnings Estimates Ahead Of Streaming Launch

 

Walt Disney Co. on Thursday reported better-than-expected quarterly results, fueled by the release of blockbuster films “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” as it prepared for its new streaming television service.

Disney profit in the recently ended quarter was $1.05 billion, down from $2.3 billion a year ago, on revenue that grew 34 percent to $19.1 billion.

The slump in profits came as Disney absorbed key film and television operations of 21st Century Fox and geared up for its launch of the streaming service Disney+ that aims to compete globally against Netflix and others.

“We’ve spent the last few years completely transforming The Walt Disney Company to focus the resources and immense creativity across the entire company on delivering an extraordinary direct-to-consumer experience,” said Disney chief executive Robert Iger.

“We’re excited for the launch of Disney+ on November 12.”

Iger said the company reached a deal for the service to be on Amazon’s Fire TV platform, the latest distribution agreement for Disney+.

Disney shares were up more than five percent in after-market trading following release of the earnings figures.

‘Lion King’ roars

Revenues in the past quarter were boosted by a 52 percent rise in Disney’s studio operations with box office hits “The Lion King,” “Toy Story 4” and “Aladdin” fueling gains.

The entertainment giant expects revenue in the current quarter to be boosted by the forthcoming release of a sequel to “Frozen” and the final installment of the “Star Wars” film saga.

It will thereafter take a “hiatus” from “Star Wars” box office films but has an array of spin-off shows planned exclusively for its streaming service.

Disney has become the biggest Hollywood player with the acquisition of studio and TV assets from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

However, integrating Fox into Disney has cost more than expected and the newly added studios have brought in less money than hoped.

Disney saw smaller revenue gains in its cable and broadcasting operations as well as its theme park division.

Iger would not disclose details of pre-sales of Disney+ subscriptions, but said the price — $6.99 monthly — has met with “great enthusiasm” by consumers.

The Disney+ online streaming service will debut in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands before gradually expanding internationally in Europe then rolling out worldwide.

Its films and TV shows will be available, along with the library it acquired from 21st Century Fox. That includes the “Star Wars” and Marvel superhero franchises and ABC television content.

Disney+ will also combine offerings from powerhouse brands including Pixar, with content from Hulu and sports network ESPN.

Apple rolling

Apple last week launched a streaming television service that features a budding library of original shows starring big-name celebrities, aimed at winning over its gadget lovers at home and on the go.

The Apple TV+ on-demand streaming service launched in more than 100 countries at $4.99 per month.

Original Apple TV+ shows have so far been met with lukewarm early reviews, but the low subscription price and an offer of year-long memberships free with purchase of the company’s devices was expected to encourage viewers to tune in.

Netflix, meanwhile, has budgeted $15 billion this year for original shows, on top of the billions it has devoted to exclusive productions in recent years.

Amazon, which has deep pockets thanks to its e-commerce and cloud services, has also poured cash into original shows for its Prime Video service.

This sets up a potential spending war among the major streaming players, according to analysts.

Even more competition looms on the horizon, with AT&T’s Warner Media to launch its “HBO Max” in early 2020 after reclaiming the rights from Netflix to stream its popular television comedy “Friends.”

NBCUniversal’s Peacock service is also launching next year.

Uber Loss Tops $1 Billion As It Seeks To Diversify

In this file photo taken on May 8, 2018, the Uber logo is seen at the second annual Uber Elevate Summit, at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles, California. Ride-share company Uber on November 14, 2018, said that its net loss topped a billion dollars in the recently ended quarter as it pumped money into bikes, scooters, freight and food delivery.

 

Ride-share company Uber on Wednesday said that its net loss topped a billion dollars in the recently ended quarter as it pumped money into bikes, scooters, freight and food delivery.

While a private company, Uber has taken to sharing quarterly earnings figures as it prepares for a keenly-anticipated debut on the stock market next year.

Figures released by Uber showed the San Francisco-based company lost $1.1 billion on revenue that grew to $3 billion, while overall bookings notched up to $12.7 billion.

“We had another strong quarter for a business of our size and global scope,” Uber chief financial officer Nelson Chai said in a statement shared along with the earnings figures.

“As we look ahead to an IPO and beyond, we are investing in future growth across our platform, including in food, freight, electric bikes and scooters, and high-potential markets in India and the Middle East.”

In the previous quarter, the smartphone-summoned ride service reported it lost $891 million on net revenue of $2.8 billion, with overall bookings of $12 billion.

Uber is eyeing a valuation above $100 billion for its share offering due in 2019, which would be the biggest-ever in the tech sector, sources familiar with the plan said last month.

The sources told AFP the global ridesharing giant is considering speeding up its plans for an initial public offering to the first half of 2019, rather than the second half of the year.

Uber, which operates in over 60 countries, is already the largest of the venture-backed “unicorns” valued at more than $1 billion, which until recently was considered rare without tapping stock markets.

Its most recent investment — a $500 million injection from Japanese auto giant Toyota — was made at a reported valuation of $72 billion.

Uber offered no comment on the IPO plans.

Uber is due to make a market debut by the end of 2019 as part of an investment deal with Japan’s SoftBank, which has a stake of some 15 percent.

The ridesharing group last year hired a new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, who has vowed to fix the company’s work culture and business practices after a series of missteps and scandals over executive misconduct, a toxic work atmosphere, and potentially unethical competitive practices.

Uber has also expanded its services beyond car rides to freight hauling, delivering food, and sharing scooters or bicycles.

As it expands its services, Uber is also seeking to become a major player in autonomous cars and has agreed to buy and adapt vehicles from Volvo to begin operating self-driving taxis.

AFP

Snapchat Launches App To Take On Public Poop

 

 

A freshly launched Snapcrap app is out to turn San Francisco smartphone users into poop-spotters.

The free mobile app invites people to share location-tagged pictures of public piles of poo with city works crews whose job it is to clean it up.

The application plays into its purpose with a logo of a stylized turn on a yellow background in what appears to be a parody of image and video sharing social network Snapchat.

Snapcrap uses GPS capabilities in smartphones to pinpoint locations of piles of poop in pictures, then lets people send the information in alerts to municipal services.

In an interview with local media, Snapcrap creator Sean Miller told of being chagrined by the amount of dog and human waste he had to sidestep on streets after moving to San Francisco.

Miller said the app was designed to make it simple to report poop sightings, avoiding the hassle of using the official San Francisco system.

While the launch of Snapcrap this month inspired playful potty humor, it underscored a serious concern about homelessness in San Francisco and throughout Silicon Valley, where housing prices have skyrocketed in the booming tech economy.

Famous as home to tech companies, San Francisco also has a reputation for people living on its streets and relieving themselves on streets or walkways.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a city public works line receives scores of calls daily from residents reporting poop to be cleaned.

The problem has grown so dire that earlier this year the city launched a poop patrol: a small team of workers devoted predominately to roaming a “Tenderloin” neighborhood known for its homeless population to find and clean away waste.

AFP

Microsoft To Provide Cloud And Tools For Tackling Ebola

microsoftMicrosoft Corp will provide free cloud-computing and research applications to qualified medical researchers working on the Ebola virus, the software company’s chief executive said on Monday.

“One of the things tomorrow morning we’re going to do is make available Azure computer power to the research community,” Chief Executive Officer, Satya Nadella, said at a presentation in San Francisco.

Azure is the name of Microsoft’s cloud-computing platform, essentially a group of datacenters that allow users to access large amounts of information and computing power remotely over the internet.

“In addition we have some tools that Microsoft researchers built to be able to do vaccine discovery, so we want to take all of that and make it available for the research community,” said Nadella.

According to the company’s website, Microsoft’s research unit is “soliciting cloud computing proposals for projects that are working towards developing a better understanding of the spread and cure of the Ebola virus.”

Qualifying proposals from researchers affiliated with academic institutions “will be awarded allocations of Microsoft Azure computer and storage resources,” it said.

Access to Microsoft’s vast web of datacenters could be helpful to researchers looking to store and analyze large sets of data that would be difficult to study using only local computers and networks.

Intel unveils 27-inch all-in-on desktop tablet

It was called a developers’ conference by Intel and it was hosted in San Francisco little did the computer world know that it was about to be bombarded with a new invention by the chip-making company as it was used as a medium to unveil a desktop computer prototype that has a display that can double as a 27-inch tablet with a four-hour battery life.

Slate producers like Samsung, with its Galaxy Note II, and Apple, with its expected iPad Mini, are down-sizing the tablet’s classic 10-inch form factor. But Intel must think that there’s room to push the form at the other end of things.

Called the Adaptive All-In-One, the 2.5-inch thick unit has 1080p HD resolution and has the guts of a personal computer, including optical drive, input/output ports and high-performance graphics processor. On the desktop, it plugs into a dock that charges its battery and connects it to peripherals such as a keyboard and mouse. Its touchscreen can be used both on and off the dock.

The display panel weighs 14 pounds. That may have been portable in the days of the Osborne I, but it’s not very portable by today’s standards. Intel recognizes that deficiency and is working with screen and battery manufacturers to slim down the units.

All-In-One computers aren’t anything new, and in recent times they’ve been gaining popularity. Apple has been flogging the form for years with its iMac line and just this week HP introduced a slick new addition to the category, the SpectreONE.

Some tablet makers have also dipped their toes in the detachable screen waters. For example, Asus’ Transformer tablet line has a dock that transforms the slates into a mini-laptop.

With ideas like the Adaptive All-In-One, Intel hopes to pump some excitement into a PC market that seems to get more moribund with each passing quarter. For the quarter ending in June, for instance, Gartner reported that PC shipments declined 5.7 per cent. IDC’s estimates for the period were even worse: a 10.6 per cent drop.

The traditional desktop is a box that’s beige, black, or brown and most likely it’s under the desk but now, the adaptive all-in-one in terms of design will surely change the way that people interact with their desktop PCs.

US Court refuses trial of Chevron over Niger-delta

The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up an appeal by 19 Nigerians seeking to invoke a US anti-torture law to sue oil giant Chevron over deaths in the Niger Delta.

The decision by the top US court not to intervene follows its unanimous finding last week that the law — the Torture Victim Protection Act — only allows lawsuits against individuals, not against corporations or organizations.

The finding lets stand a federal appeals court ruling in San Francisco that threw out the suit by the Nigerian demonstrators.

The plaintiffs claimed that they and their loved ones suffered deaths and injuries at the hands of Nigerian military personnel who used brutal force to crack down on an offshore oil platform protest in the Niger Delta in 1998.

The plaintiffs in the case, Bowoto, alleged that Chevron’s Nigeria subsidiary backed the military action and that the US parent company should be held liable.

The human rights case went to trial in a US federal court in San Francisco in October 2008. Brought under the Alien Tort Statute, the suit seeks to hold Chevron accountable for serious human rights violations committed in Nigeria.

Chevron was charged with egregious human rights abuses arising from its complicity with the notorious Nigerian military and “kill and go” mobile police against members of the Ilaje community of the Niger Delta. The Ilaje were protesting environmental and economic damage caused by Chevron’s oil producing activities in their community.